Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a syndrome in patients with chronic liver disease that cause a cascade of multiple organ failure and rapidly progress into coma and death. The syndrome occurs in over 100,000 patients yearly worldwide, and continues to increase dramatically due to the aging population, and a higher prevalence of diabetes, obesity, alcohol and drug intoxications. Due to a huge unmet medical need, with current treatment options being either preventative or unsafe, the rare liver disease has an alarming mortality rate.
The Swizz startup Versantis is developing a life-saving therapy for liver disease patients. Their lead therapy, VS-01, is the first emergency treatment for acute liver diseases. The candidate is a unique dialysis approach, a liposomal-based fluid that acts as a clearance enhancer for a large spectrum of toxic metabolites, such as ammonia, accumulated during liver and kidney failures. By enhancing this removal, it supports the failing brain, liver and kidneys simultaneously, 3 organs of major importance in the prognostic of patients with acute liver diseases.
VS-01 has been granted an Orphan Drug Designation, and besides ACLF, it also target two other rare liver diseases, acute liver failure (ALF) and urea cycle disorders (UCDS). It is estimated that ALF affects 7,500 patients yearly in the EU and USA, and approximately half of them die waiting for a liver graft. UCDS affects over 1,000 newborns every year, and rapidly evolves to coma and death if not treated within hours. In addition, the startup continues to expand its pipeline and is also developing VS-02 and VS-03 for chronic liver diseases and for the treatment of drug intoxications, both considered as endemic diseases worldwide.
Although still in early phases, Versantis’ lead product is a radical breakthrough that will be the first treatment approved for ACLF, presenting a new hope for patients who so far have been neglected due to the absence of an effective drug. The startup has already developed an impressive pipeline that improve patients’ outcome, potentially saving thousands of lives, while relieving health care systems from the economic burden of liver diseases. And their innovative liposomal system could lead to disruptive drugs in a broad range of indications of high unmet need, highlighting the innovative technology and the startup’s huge potential.
Versantis has previously won the top 10 >>venture>> Business Idea Award, and has been supported by Venture Kick, a three stage funding model initiated to support Swiss startups. Recently, the startup announced they had won a scholarship at Cydan Development, an orphan drug accelerator that identifies and de-risks orphan drug products with significant therapeutic and commercial potential, and that they had won MassChallenge Switzerland 2016.